Ramaphosa’s D.C. Visit Can’t Mask Tensions in U.S.-South Africa Ties

Ramaphosa’s D.C. Visit Can’t Mask Tensions in U.S.-South Africa Ties
Vice President Kamala Harris welcomes South African President Cyril Ramaphosa to the vice president’s official residence in Washington, Sept. 16, 2022 (AP photo by Balce Ceneta).

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is in Washington for a working visit to the U.S. at the invitation of President Joe Biden. Ramaphosa led a delegation that also includes Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor and other officials from Pretoria. Pandor addressed the Council on Foreign Relations on Wednesday and met yesterday with her U.S. counterpart, Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Ramaphosa is expected to meet today with Vice President Kamala Harris, after which he will meet with Biden.

The two leaders are expected to discuss a range of issues, including climate, energy, health, infrastructure, food security and trade. Transnational security, law enforcement and other issues around peace and security are also expected to feature on the bilateral agenda. During his visit, Ramaphosa is also expected to meet with congressional leaders before departing for London to attend the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II.

Ramaphosa’s visit to Washington comes on the back of Blinken’s three-country tour of Africa last month that included a visit to South Africa. During that stopover, Blinken delivered a speech at the University of Pretoria unveiling Washington’s “U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa,” a document that frames U.S. engagement with African countries around four cardinal objectives that the Biden administration regards as crucial in its effort to deepen relations with the continent. But the speech and the strategy document broadly received the cold shoulder in African capitals and among local publics. Many on the continent, including South African officials, view the strategy document as little more than an effort by the U.S. to draw their countries into Washington’s great-power competition with Russia and China.

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